1902 Encyclopedia > Trumpet


TRUMPET, a musical instrument, consisting of a long, narrow brass tube, cylindrical for the greater part of its length: the fusiform development which terminates in the bell or opening of the lower end only begins at a point that varies from a third to a fourth of the total length from that extremity. The air inside is set in vibration by the lips (which act as true reeds) applied to the edges of a basin-like mouthpiece fitted to the upper part of the instrument. The material has nothing to do with the production of that brilliant quality of tone by which the trumpet.is so easily distinguished from every other mouth-piece instrument: the difference is partly due to the dis-tinct form given to the basin of the mouthpiece, but prin-cipally to the proportions of the column of air determined by the conical or cylindrical form of its envelope.
The possibility of producing sonorous disturbance of a mass of air through a mouthpiece, or more simply through the orifice of the tube, has been known from a very early period,—a shell bored at its extremity, or a horn with the point removed, being without doubt the most ancient instrument for producing sound. Nearly all the nations of antiquity had mouthpiece instruments; but the greater number of these, though grouped under the general designation of trumpets, have only a very distant relationship to the modern instrument. The Romans had four such instruments,—the tuba, buccina, cornu, and lituus. The tuba, represented in the bas-reliefs of the triumphal arch of Titus, was a kind of straight bronze clarion, with a conical column of air. It is ordinarily designated the Roman trumpet, and was about 39 inches long; its compass should not go beyond the first six proper notes of the harmonic scale. The Roman tuba and the Greek salpinx are supposed to be one and the same instrument. The buccina was also of bronze, with a tube measuring fully 11 feet in length. The tube is only slightly conical, and the quality of tone bears a striking resemblance to that of the bass trombone in G;
the proper tones for har- T^. j——g~a*~~"<"~L TL
monies were those sub- ±±E [~-3=*=pz_L~l l~F
joined. The cornu was ^ ~*
often made of a bullock's horn, but bronze was also employed,

as in a specimen in the British Museum. This instrument measured 4 feet 6 inches in length, and the scale was
(Ms tr= -f *

that herewith shown. The : Boman cornu was probably ' like the Greek keras. The three preceding instruments were used in giving signals to the infantry. The cavalry calls were given with the lituus, a specimen of which exists in the museum of the Vatican, found in 1827 in a tomb at Cerveteri (Caere). The tube is cylindrical for the greater part of its length, its conical development beginning only at the lower end, where the instrument begins to curve. The lituus easily
produces the accompanying -g 1. r~
proper notes; its quality of ffi—jjpj—""""F^ — "'
tone is like that of a trumpet V in G. In Ireland and Denmark numerous mouthpiece instruments in bronze have been found, sixteen different specimens being preserved in the museum of the Boyal Irish Academy at Dublin, and six (of which facsimiles exist in South Kensington Museum) in the museum at Copenhagen. But none of these have the proportions of a trumpet; all, by the conical development of the tube as well as by the curved form, recall their first model, the horn, successive transformations of which have given rise to the clarion and the numerous family of bugles.

We have no precise information as to the form which the lituus, the ancestor of the modern trumpet, assumed during the Middle Ages. A miniature in the Bible pre-sented in 850 to Charles the Bald places the lituus in the hands of one of the companions of King David, but we are not warranted in concluding from this that the Etruscan instrument was in use in the 9th century. The earliest representation of the trumpet with its present proportions of tube and form of bell seems to belong to the 15th century. Fra Angelico (d. 1455) has painted angels with trumpets having either straight or zigzag tubes, the shortest being about 5 feet long. The perfect representation of the details, the exactness of the propor-tions, the natural pose of the angel players, suggest that the artist painted the instruments from real models.

The credit of having bent the tube of the trumpet in three parallel branches, thus creating its modern form, has usually been claimed for a Frenchman named Maurin (1498-1515). But the transformation was really made in Italy about the middle of the 15th century, as is proved by the bas-reliefs of Luca della Bobbia intended to orna-ment the organ chamber of the cathedral of Florence (see vol. xx. p. 588); there a trumpet having the tube bent back as just described is very distinctly figured. From the beginning of the 16th century we have numerous sources of information. Virdung cites three kinds of mouthpiece instruments—the felttrumet, the clareta, and the thurner horn; unfortunately he does not mention their distinctive characters, and it is impossible to make them out by examination of his engravings. Probably the felttrumet and the clareta closely resembled each other; but the compass of the former, destined for military signals, hardly went beyond the 8th proper tone, while the latter, reserved for high parts, was like the clarino (see below). The thurner horn was probably a kind of clarino or clarion used by watchmen on the towers. The trummet and the jager trommel are the only two mouth-piece instruments of the trumpet kind cited by Praetorius. The first was tuned in D at the chamber pitch or " kam-merton," but with the help of a shank it could be put in C, the equivalent of the " chorton " D, the two differ-ing about a tone. Sometimes the trummet was lowered to B and even Bb. The jager trommet, or "trompette de chasse," was composed of a tube bent several times in circles, like the posthorn, to make use of a comparison employed by Praetorius himself. His drawing does not make it clear whether the column of air was like that of the trumpet; there is therefore some doubt as to the true character of the instrument. The same author further cites a wooden trumpet (holzern trommet), which is no other than the Swiss alpen-horn or Norwegian luur. Mersenne's4 information is not very instructive; but he gives a description of the sourdine, a kind of mute or damper introduced into the bell, already employed in his time, and still made use of to weaken the-sound. The shape of the trumpet, as seen in the bas-reliefs of Luca della Robbia, was retained for more than three hundred years : the first first alterations destined to revolutionize the whole technique of the instrument were made about the middle of the 18th century. Notwithstanding the im-perfections of the trumpet during this long period, the performers upon it acquired an astonishing dexterity.

The usual scale of the typical trumpet, that in D, is
^ rT3—fl , ^-^-P^jgjFg-'g

Prsetorius exceeds the limits of this compass in the higher range,
for he says a good trumpeter could produce the subjoined notes.
. £2 -fz- This opinion is shared by Bach, who,
Q "|——|=L_:l— in a trumpet solo which ends the
/k - — cantata "Der Himmel lacht," wrote up
TT — to the twentieth of these sounds. So
considerable a compass could not be reached by one instrumentalist: the trumpet part had therefore to be divided, and each division was designated by a special name.6 The fundamental or first proper note was called flattcrgrob, the second grobstimme, the third faulstimme, the fourth mittelstimme. The part that was called principal went from the fifth to the tenth of these tones. The higher region, which had received the name of " clarino," was again divided into two parts : the first began at the eighth proper tone and mounted up towards the extreme high limit of the com-pass, according to the skill of the executant; the second, beginning at the sixth proper tone, rarely went beyond the twelfth. Each of these parts was confided to a special trumpeter, who executed it by using a larger or a smaller mouthpiece.

Playing the clarino differed essentially from playing the military trumpet, which corresponded in compass to that called principal. Compelled to employ very small mouthpieces to facilitate the emis-sion of very high sounds, clarino players could not fail to alter the tone of the instrument, and instead of getting the brilliant and energetic quality of tone of the mean register they were only able to produce more or less doubtful notes without power and splendour. Apart from this inconvenience, the clarino presented numerous deviations from just intonation. Hence the players of that time failed to obviate the bad effects inevitably resulting from the natural imperfection of the harmonic scale of the trumpet in that extreme part of its compass; in the execution, for instance, of the works of Bach, where the trumpet should give sometimes -a m , and -a—s»—, the instrumentalist could only com-
ffi;—i— some- ffi)—I mand the eleventh proper tone, which
possible to upon the
Further, the thirteenth proper tone, for which _ is really too flat, and it is absolutely im-' remedy this defect, since it entirely depends ' laws of resonance affecting columns of air.
Since the abandonment of the clarino (about the middle of the 18th century) our orchestras have been enriched with trumpets that permit the execution of the old clarino parts, not only with perfect justness of intonation, but with a quality of tone that is not deficient in character when compared with the mean register of the old principal instrument. The introduction of the clarinet or little clarino is one of the causes which led to the abandonment of the older instrument and may explain the preference given by the composers of that epoch to the mean register of the trumpet. The clarino having disappeared before Mozart's day, he had to change the trumpet parts of Handel and Bach to allow of their execution by the performers of his own time. It was now that crooks began to be frequently used. Trumpets were made in F instead of in D, furnished with a series of shanks of increasing length for the tonalities of E, EJ>, D, D\>, C, B, BJ>, and sometimes even A.
tT times tT is neither the one nor the other of these.
p "P— is written,

The first attempts to extend the limited resources of the instrument in its new employment arose out of Hampel's idea of lowering the harmonic sounds by introducing the hand into the bell. But, instead of fixing the shanks between the mouthpiece and the upper extremity, they were adapted to the body of the instrument itself by a double slide, upon the two branches of which tubes were inserted bent in the form of a circle and gradually lengthened as required. This modified instrument became known as the "invention horn." This system was applied to the trumpet by Michel Woegel (born at Bastatt in 1748), whose "invention trumpet" had a great success, notwithstanding the unavoidable imperfection of a too great disparity in quality of tone between the open and the closed sounds. The idea of applying the trombone slide to the trumpet is obvious.- The slide trumpet is mentioned by T. E. Altenburg, who compares it, and with reason, to the alto trombone; and there are grounds for identifying it with the "tromba da tirarsi" employed by J. S. Bach in some of his compositions. The slide trumpet is still used in England in a somewhat modified form. About 1760, Kolbel, a Russian musician, applied a key to the horn, and soon afterwards the trumpet received a similar addition. By opening this key, which is placed near the bell, the instrument was raised a diatonic semitone, and by correcting errors of intonation by the pressure of the lips in the mouthpiece the following diatonic succession was obtained.
—a I I 1 I J~ ^ 's invention was improved
yjh | 1—j—-j- J ~J* ^—^— in 1801 by Weidinger, trum-
iX <t * peter to the imperial court

at Vienna, who increased the number of keys and thus made the trumpet chromatic thoughout its scale. The instrument shown in the accompanying figure is in G; the keys are five in number, and as they open one after another or in combination it is possible to connect the second proper tone with the third by chromatic steps, and thus produce the following succession. The number
_J?: — —: ~zz of keys
= 3=1 —== was ap-
^ EE 3 EE :=t =5 ¿1- (m:) PlieQ t0
* & * * ** { ' fill up the gaps between the extreme sounds of the interval of a fifth ; and a like result was arrived at more easily for the intervals of the fourth, the major third, &c., furnished by the proper tones of 3, 4, 5, &c. But, though the keyed trumpet was a notable improvement on the invention trumpet, the sounds obtained by means of the lateral open-ings of the tube did not possess the qualities which distinguish sounds caused by the reson-ance of the air-column vibrating in its entirety. But in 1815 Stblzel made a genuine chromatic trumpet by the invention of the ventile or piston; for this ingenious mechanism, see TROMBONE. The simple trumpet is now no longer employed except in cavalry regiments. KeJ'ed trumpet. It is usually in E|>. The bass trumpet in E[>, which is an octave lower, is sometimes, but rarely, used. Trumpets with pistons are generally constructed in F, with crooks in E and E(j. In Ger-many trumpets in the high ~B\> with a crook in A are very often used in the orchestra. They are easier for cornet a piston players than the trumpet in F. The present writer has recently constructed for the concerts of the Conservatoire at Brussels trumpets in the high D, an octave above the old trumpet in the same key. They permit the execution of the high trumpet parts of Handel and J. S. Bach. The bass trumpet with pistons used for "Wagner's tetralogy is in E[>, in unison with the ordinary trumpet with crooks of D and C ; but, when constructed so as to allow of the production of the second proper tone as written by this master, this instrument belongs rather to the trombones than to the trumpets. (V. M.)


The difficulty of producing the fundamental or first proper note increases with the length and narrowness of the tube. The propor-tions of the buccina render the production of this note very difficult.
The difficulty of producing the fundamental or first proper note increases with the length and narrowness of the tube. The propor-tions of the buccina render the production of this note very difficult.

In the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris.
In the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris.
Musica getutscht und auszgezogen, Basel,
Organographies, Wolfenbüttel, 1619.

4 Harmonie Universelle, Paris,
5 Der sich selbst informirende Musicus, Augsburg, 1762, by Lotter.

Search the Encyclopedia:

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-16 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries